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The 5 Most Common Questions About Applying to the CSU

Michelle Baik

Applying to college doesn’t need to be complicated; learn how to make your way through the application process quickly and easily.

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The CSU priority filing period for applications for fall typically runs from October 1 to November 30.


​​​The California State University's application season is now underway, which means that students are figuring out what they need to get into a CSU campus, which location is the best fit, what they might want to major in, and how to apply for financial aid, among other questions. Here, we answer the most common questions high school counselors from the 2016 Counselor Conference in Pasadena said they get from students who are applying to the CSU:

1. Where do I apply to the CSU?
You can apply to any of the 23 CSU campuses through Cal State Apply. Whether you're a U.S. or international student, undergraduate, transfer or graduate student, this website handles the entire application process. You can also apply for CalStateTEACH, the online teacher credential program, and the Educational Opportunity Program.

The application period for admission for the fall term opens on October 1 and the priority deadline to apply for admission as an undergraduate student is November 30, unless extended. You should check specific campuses and departments for
international and grad​uate application deadlines.

2. Which campus(es) should I apply to?
The CSU offers 23 campuses that run the length of the state, from Humboldt State in the north to San Diego State in the south.

You can
compare campuses by location (Northern California, Central California or Southern California) and setting (small/medium city, large town or major city). You can also see the total enrollment of students to get a sense of how small or large the campus community is.

If you're interested in a specific
field of study, you can search through the campuses to check which schools offer various majors. You can select your desired degree, area of study, and preference of face-to-face instruction, online, or a mix of the two.

If you can, you should also try to
visit the​ campuses you're interested in so you can get a sense of the school first-hand. Many campuses offer preview days and o​pen houses for students to tour the school and meet students, faculty and staff.

3. What is "impaction"?
Impaction means that more qualified applicants apply to a CSU campus and/or major than can be accommodated. As a result, the minimum admission requirements may be raised, potentially making it harder to get into a campus or a program you're interested in.

You can check which
campuses are impacted for first-time freshmen and transfer students, as well as which degree programs are impacted at each campus. If you're interested in an impacted major or campus,​ you must apply by the priority deadline (November 30, 2016) and you're encouraged to apply to additional campuses to maximize your chances for admission.

Non-impacted campuses are open to all CSU-eligible applicants.

4. What do I need to get admitted to a CSU as a first-time freshman?
You ​must meet the "a-g" course requirements, which include a specific number of years for social science, English, mathematics, laboratory science, a language other than English, visual and performing arts, and a college preparatory elective.

Because high schools may have different titles for courses, you can check which classes meet the "a-g" course requirements through
UC Doorways. You can also use this roadmap to track which classes you should be taking each year from middle school through high school.

Additionally, you must meet a minimum
eligibility index, which is a weighted combination of your high school grade point average (GPA) during your last three years of high school and either your SAT or ACT score. California residents and non-residents have two separate eligibility indexes.

5. How much is tuition and how can I get financial aid?
While the tuition for each CSU campus is generally the same, costs will vary depending on where you live, books and supplies, meals and other miscellaneous expenses. You can get a general sense of how much it will cost to attend a CSU.

Eighty percent of students at the CSU receive some type of
financial aid to cover those costs. You can receive aid by applying to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act Application (CADA) for AB 540 students, which are both open now. You can also apply for and receive other forms of aid, including grants, loans, scholarships and work-study.

To learn more and apply, visit the Cal State Apply portal​.

Updated December 10, 2020